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Greece Tour in Sept. 2016 Followed by 7 days in the Islands

We are considering the RS Greece Tour starting on Sept 12, 2016. This will be our first RS Tour. 3 questions: 1) we will be flying out of Washington DC... Is there a nonstop flight to Athens and if so what are the specifics on the airline etc? 2) we would like to arrive in Athens 2 days before the tour begins to acclimate. Where should we stay for the 2 nights before the tour begins? 3) at the end of the RS tour we would like to travel to some of the islands in a 7 day period returning to Athens to fly back to DC. Which islands should we visit, in what order, and where should we make reservations on each island to stay? Do we travel by ferry to each and then ferry back to Athens to return to DC? Please share your thoughts and travel specifics. Many thanks.

Posted by
11294 posts

There are currently very few nonstop flights from North America to Athens, and none from DC (with Greece's economic crisis, Olympic stopped their Athens to JFK flight). There are currently flights to Athens seasonally from Philadelphia, JFK, Toronto, and Montreal, and flights to Newark will resume at the end of next May.

From DC you will have to change somewhere, and it's usually easier to change in Europe than North America. On the other hand, my sister so strongly prefers National to Dulles that she would probably take one of the North American options. Note that the flights from Toronto and Montreal are on Air Canada Rouge, a budget arm of Air Canada that gets generally bad reviews (far worse then regular Air Canada).

Look at Kayak http://www.kayak.com/flights or Matrix ITA http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ to see all your options. Or, a great source of this kind of information (who flies where from an airport) is Wikipedia; here's their destination list for Athens: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athens_International_Airport#Scheduled_Flights

For what to do before your tour starts, you can see Rick's suggestions by going to this link, clicking on the "Pre Tour" tab and scrolling down to "Sightseeing On Your Own": https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/greece-turkey/greece

Posted by
2788 posts

From the questions you have asked, I can only assume that you are very early in your planning. There are several web based sites that you can access to find out about flights. Do you have a Greece Guide Book yet? If so, good. If not I would suggest you get one as soon as possible to help in your planning. We used the RS Greece Guide Book for out trip there in 2014 for both before and after our RS Greece Tour. We certainly enjoyed that tour, our 12th RS tour at the time. An earlier post suggested flying from DC to Europe and then on to Athens. We fly from Seattle to Europe every year and always fly non-stop to someplace there and then take a connecting flight if we can not get a non-stop flight to our ultimate destination. Keep reading and planning and them come back with more specific questions that some of us may be able to answer.

Posted by
3319 posts

You will enjoy the RS tour, which is mainly Athens, Delphi & the Peloponnese area. his guidebook is good for those areas, and will help you to appreciate the tour. However, I think the only island it covers is Hydra (which is my opinion is over-hyped, mainly because it can be done as a day-trip from Athens). You will need a different guidebook to learn more about the islands -- and you should know more before you ask those "universe" questions ... you know, tell us which island, tell us how to get there & back, tell us which hotels to book. When you ask this, you essentially are asking contributors to be your travel agents, which we are not. It will better received if you browse a few books, and select islands that appeal to you, and THEN ask just about them.

The books also will give you a better idea of what's feasible in 7 days -- right off, I'd say, restrict yourself to the Cyclades islands ... they are the ones that appeal most to first-timers, they have the famous "poster look" of white-cube houses, blue shutters, red flowers etc. And they are linked well by ferries. Your most time-efficient travel method would be to flly to your farthest island destination, then ferry your way back ... or vice versa. I.e.: Fly to Santorini, ferry to island #2 (Milos or Naxos, or Paros), then ferry back to Pireaus on mainland. if you ferry first, fly last, do NOT fly to Ath airport on same day of your homebound transatlantic flight. Any "glitch" would result in missed plane.

You don't have to BUY a book, tho spending a few dollars to improve experience of a trip costing what?? $10,000? is worth it. However, you can go to your public library and check out ROUGH GUIDE to GREECE, ROUGH GUIDE to Greek Islands, Eyewitness Guide to Greek Islands, Lonely Planet (not quite as good), or Frommers etc. You don't have to get latest edition; you're not using it for restaurant or hotel prices. Find the one you like, you can get them on Amazon as cheap as $1 + shipping.

As for the North America to GREECE flight choices -- you are indeed limited. PHILA (AA) or NYC (Delta) are nonstop, 9-10 hours in Air, leave 4:30 or 5 in afternoon, arrive 9 AM - 9:30 AM. SOMETIMES (not often thse days), the price drops a bit, around Feb. the Air Canada is also nonstop from Canada - arrives around 9:30 /10. Economy seats in all are as uncomfortable as u can imagine. The PLUS is, these flights are ALWAYS on time -- because if they have a late take-off they have 9 hours to make up the delay.

The BIG advantage to going nonstop from US/Canada is time-efficiency. If you choose a transfer IN europe, there is always a layover there... and none of these flights ever arrive before 2 or 3 in afternoon, many arrive at 5 or so. Not to mention the delay factor as the day wears on. So, essentially, you lose that whole arrival day. I have done it a couple of times ---- when I could get a PHL to GREECE plane for $500 less If I changed in Heathrow ... but I had many extra days to spare, and didn't care if I did not arrive in athens until 5 or 6 pm. It's your call.

Posted by
2184 posts

We arrived 2 days early for,our tour and booked the tour hotel, mainly because we prefer to unpacked as little as possible. Other stayed up the street and were quite happy. If you are there on a Sunday, they do a special changing of the guard at Syntagma Square. - I think it is at 11 a.m. ( but check the guidebook for updates).

If you want to do additional islands in a 7 days period, I would pick 2. By the time you've included travel, you won't have time to do much more. To get back to DC, I'm pretty sure you'll need to be in Athens.